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Massively's Darkfall launch week diary: Day three and recap

Jef Reahard

So yesterday I kinda rambled on at length about why I'm loving Darkfall Unholy Wars. I'm not really apologizing; after all, this is my launch week diary! Today, though, I figured I might tone it down a bit and just hit the highlights of my day three play experience. After that, I'll recap and give you some final thoughts on Darkfall as it stands in April 2013.

Darkfall Unholy Wars - Zombie temple
I PvPed more than I intended to yesterday, which will occasionally happen when you're playing a PvP game. I initially decided to try my hand at weaponsmithing, and the nearest metal spawn happened to be combat central for a couple of hours last night. I managed to make one successful bank run to deposit a load of minerals before running afoul of the gank squad on my way back.

It was actually quite a lot of fun, though, as I put up more of a fight than I expected to, and this gave me the confidence to put weaponsmithing temporarily on hold and seek out further PvP adventures. After I got that out of my system, it was back to harvesting, exploring, and taking a serious stab at sussing out a plan for my prowess points.

Contrary to skilling in the original Darkfall, you don't gain skill points for anything and everything automatically. Well, you do, but they're all dumped into a single pool of prowess points that you have to then allocate yourself. I'm assuming this is intended to stop AFK swimming, blood-walling, and the like, and while I don't know how successful it's going to be in that respect, I enjoy the system. It was weird initially, as I expected to hear the old school Darkfall skill-up dings while running or swimming, but this is still a do-what-you-want-how-you-want sandbox, which is ultimately all that matters.

Darkfall Unholy Wars water
I decided to step outside my ranged DPS comfort zone and work on my Warrior role. Recall the Warrior, Skirmisher, Elementalist, and Primalist roles that I mentioned in day one of this diary series. These are skill templates rather than traditional MMO classes, and you can change roles on the fly via the appropriate GUI screen. First I spent a few prowess points bumping up my strength attribute (the max for attributes and skills is 100, though one of your four primary attributes may be boosted to 140). These boosters are also hot-swappable, so if I decide to switch back to Elementalist at some point, it's a matter of hitting the I key and toggling the desired box.

Darkfall Unholy Wars Mahirim ElementalistAlso, don't let the term boosters fool you. There's no cash shop in Darkfall, and the boosters are purchased with prowess points and permanently available to your avatar. Boosters seem like an easy way to get a leg up on building a new character. In my case, I ground out a few hundred prowess points and purchased the first two strength booster boxes, which gave my character a significant health pool bump.

Then I put some prowess points into my greatsword skill, the mouseover for which said something about attack speed and magnitude. After doing these two things, I noticed a substantial increase in my PvE efficiency and PvP survivability.

I also dumped enough prowess points into my skinning and herb gathering skills to get them to 50. This sped up the harvesting time considerably, which in turn led to more prowess points and also the completion of several harvesting-related feats (which led to even more prowess points). I also discovered that crafting skills are separate from the prowess point system in one important respect. Much as in classic Darkfall, you can raise crafting skills only by crafting; the progression is not tied to the prowess point pool like PvP, PvE, and harvesting. The act of crafting itself does reward prowess points, but said points will need to be allocated elsewhere because you can only raise your weaponsmith skill by crafting weapons.

Finally, I discovered a nifty shortcut that basically invalidates what I said earlier in the week about getting used to the ALT-LMB and ALT-RMB actuators for DFUW's new skill and ability wheels. If you hit your Q and E keys, you'll notice the left and right ability wheels at the bottom of your UI light up. Say I want to cast my Heal Self skill that I've previously placed in the one o'clock position of the right-hand wheel. Earlier I was attempting to do this using the ALT-RMB hover-and-select method as the tutorial indicated, which is challenging while moving and maintaining situational awareness.

It's much quicker to simply hit the E key and then the 1 key (or whichever number corresponds to the spell slot you desire) followed by the right mouse button to fire off the spell. Yes, I know, duh. That probably would've saved me a couple of PvP deaths if I'd figured it out earlier.

And that's basically a wrap for my Darkfall Unholy Wars launch week diary. As I mentioned in day two, I'm probably playing the game wrong from a PvPer's perspective, but Aventurine has created an enjoyable sandbox that satisfies my non-combat urges in a variety of ways. In fact, I'd go so far as to say there is no wrong way to play Darkfall, which is a large part of its charm. It's got a ways to go in terms of features and functionality before I can label it a worthy 3-D successor to Ultima Online, but the intent is clearly there, and I sorely hope it makes it.

I do encourage you to join a good clan as soon as possible. While you can certainly enjoy the game as a solo player, it really shines when you're part of a team working toward a larger goal such as territory control, ship building, etc.

Darkfall Unholy Wars mount
The good
  • Vast, seamless, and immersive world design
  • Challenging mix of action/RPG combat
  • Flexible, skill-based prowess point progression
  • Extensive crafting options from bags to boats
  • Open-world PvP
  • Surprisingly good PvE
  • Subscription model, everything in the game for one price

The bad
  • Dated animations
  • Sub-standard chat functionality, no UI customization
  • Universal banking limits economic gameplay
  • No player vendors or auction house
Catch up with all of Massively's Darkfall Unholy Wars launch week impressions:
Massively's Darkfall launch week diary: Day one
Massively's Darkfall launch week diary: Day two
Massively's Darkfall launch week diary: Day three and recap

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

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